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prioritizing career wellness in 2023.


With the new year comes fresh thinking and new perspectives from the trendsetters in the world. HR and talent analysts are predicting, almost universally, that 2021 will be the year of employee wellness. With COVID-19 and work-from-home removing any lingering separation between work and life, the well-being of our employees is crucial to the well-being of our businesses. At the same time, we know that organizations must become more agile, in their thinking and in the skills their people have, in order to manage an increasingly unknown future.

The Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2021 study found that companies that were ‘very prepared’ for the COVID-19 pandemic were twice as likely to recognize the importance of organizing work to facilitate rapid decision-making and nearly three times more ready to leverage worker adaptability and mobility to navigate future disruptions. If agility means better performance, how can we prepare our people to have the resilience to be agile, adjust to change quickly and innovate through this next unpredictable year?

Our proposed solution: make 2021 the year you focus on the career wellness of your employees. Most organizations consider wellness to be two-dimensional and focused on physical and mental health. Career wellness is an important third dimension that affects the other two and is defined as a program provided by organizations to help employees proactively manage their careers and their corresponding skill sets. Employees whose skills are future-focused and aligned to the needs of the business are better positioned to help guide the company through unpredictable times ahead.

When employee skills become outdated, problems are solved in old ways using old methodologies, which rarely lead to new, fresh solutions. Like health wellness, the priority for career wellness is prevention – in this case, the prevention of antiquated skills. Career wellness helps employees change their habits and behaviors to adopt a continuous learning mindset. While employees may currently think they’re doing well by simply putting their heads down, doing their jobs and answering emails in a timely fashion, employees with fresh skills are proactively thinking of ways to see what else they can solve – and this becomes their habit.

align employee skills with business needs

Career wellness is important for both employees and for the organization to thrive. Employees can create security for themselves and weave their evolving skills into their own safety net by aligning their skills with the future needs of the market. According to the World Economic Forum, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 as technology adoption increases. The pandemic has only accelerated the need for employees to learn new skills.

Employees who begin to adopt this adaptive mindset can get ahead of change and continue to bring value to their organizations, reducing the risk of their redundancy and keeping themselves employable. In their book The Adaptation Advantage, Heather McGowan and Chris Shipley say that employees’ relationship to work is no longer a single ‘monolithic’ career based on a single dose of early learning and experiences used throughout their career. Instead, careers are being defined as a constant state of learning and adaptation as new technologies and data change the status quo.

support individuals’ long-term employability

For organizations, providing employees with tools to keep themselves employable is a natural extension of their increasing focus on the employee experience. Many believe it is the company’s responsibility to keep people employable, whether they’re working for their current employer or are facing a career transition due to restructuring. In a blog post from August 2020, Randstad RiseSmart president and general manager, Dan Davenport, called providing tools for talent mobility a ‘moral and business imperative,’ citing the desire by most CEOs to see their employees succeed.

Many organizations took this approach in early 2020 as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard and fast. Unlike the recession of 2008–2009, when layoffs were one of the first ways companies cut costs, in 2020, many companies made public pledges to delay layoffs for as long as possible. While employees knew their jobs were at risk of elimination, these organizations did their best to supply employees with tools to upskill, learn and reskill, enabling them to increase their employability while working in their current roles. When many of these companies were eventually forced to downsize at the end of the year, employees were more prepared, better positioning them to secure new roles faster than if they hadn’t been given the opportunity for learning and career wellness.

Given the widespread impact of the pandemic, effectively positioning impacted employees to land new roles outside the organization is also the right thing to do from a corporate responsibility standpoint, as broad economic recovery will require helping millions of individuals make successful career transitions. Organizations that prioritize the career wellness of their employees during these challenging times will be employers of choice in the future and perceived positively by current and prospective customers – helping drive long-term business success.

related content: why talent mobility is both a moral and business imperative.

create a more inclusive workplace

Inclusivity and social equity have risen to the top of the list of issues companies wish to address in 2021. A recent CEO survey from Fortune and Deloitte found that 96% of CEOs agree diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a strategic priority and focus for them in 2021. Additionally, 90% of CEOs surveyed indicated they will support DEI efforts through investment in talent recruitment, development, advancement and retention over the next 12 months.

The year 2020 challenged us to embrace fresh approaches and diverse opinions, which are crucial to innovation. If the impacts of 2020 weren’t already bad enough, the problem of equity in the workplace has increased this past year. According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace study, one in four women have considered downshifting their careers or leaving the workplace during the past year, largely due to the challenges of caregiving during the pandemic. These are not women just leaving their jobs but leaving the workplace altogether. Outside the workplace, these women face little opportunity to keep their skills fresh and face accelerating the antiquation of their skills. When the time comes to return to the workforce, these women will be even further behind from a skills and career growth standpoint. Rather than risk female employees leaving the workforce, many organizations are offering flexible scheduling or the opportunity to take on longer term projects and stretch assignments – which enable these employees to build their skill sets and remain relevant in the workforce.

By democratizing learning across the organization, companies can support career wellness, be inclusive and help address inequality in the workplace. And while the issues of diversity and equity are complex, a good place to start is to provide everybody with equal opportunity to learn and remain relevant – whether this is through internal project teams and gig work or more formal reskilling and upskilling opportunities. This also enables companies to solve problems in new ways by including new voices in the Zoom – while so many teams are working remotely – and identifying other ways for employees to gain visibility across the organization.

related content: what your organization can do now to support women in the workplace.

encourage learning in the flow of work

Recognizing the needs for both employees and organizations to stay relevant, how can we address career wellness, especially at a time when burnout is high and time is short? The answer: integrate career wellness and upskilling into the flow of work. Josh Bersin introduced the idea of the integrating learning into the flow of work in 2018 in response to trends of HR technology providing bite-size, micro-learning that happened in formats not exclusive to learning. We know employees learn in many ways, including formal and on-the-job learning. Internal gigs or project teams have become an important means of learning, especially during the pandemic, as companies have needed to quickly pull and tap into new skills from their workforce, regardless of job descriptions.

In their book The Inside Gig, Edie Goldberg and Kelly Steven-Waiss say that in today’s unpredictable business climate, offering employees the opportunity to continuously learn and grow within your organization but outside their job descriptions can help you uncover hidden skills in the workforce and improve retention. Allowing and encouraging your employees to contribute outside of their job descriptions to internal gigs will help them learn within the flow of work, enabling learning and business problem solving to happen simultaneously. When it comes to learning tools, bite-sized tools like simple assessments and microlearning are crucial to breaking through the business shifts employees are currently experiencing. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about the ‘aggregation of marginal gains,’ meaning that small, positive behavior changes can make a big impact over time. Simply providing employees with easy-to-digest tools can help lead to big improvements in their career wellness.

related content: how internal networks can help employees reskill and upskill.

prepare for the year ahead

As we begin this year with a fresh start, let’s look to the best practices of the most admired workplaces and make employee wellness a focus, including the important concept of career wellness. This can provide employees with greater security in their roles, allowing their higher thinking to emerge and helping us tap into their talents, including yet-to-be discovered ones, in new ways. Taking this multi-dimensional view of wellness also helps organizations create a culture that cultivates growth for employees and enables innovation.

Our invitation to you: assess your organization’s preparedness to take on career wellness by assessing your readiness for talent mobility. Take one small action to make marginal gains. These gains will add up over time, moving us closer to a world where employees will increasingly bring value to their organizations and organizations will bring value to employees through ongoing learning opportunities.


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prioritizing career wellbeing in 2023

Career wellness experienced a newfound awareness in 2022 as the effects of the pandemic rolled into a third year. People have changed how they live and work due to the disruptions and mental health fallout from COVID-19. The ongoing impact of the pandemic, increasing economic uncertainty, rising prices, and social unrest are affecting the workforce, leading to many employees dealing with mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, and burnout. These wellness issues are the reasons behind the high turnover rates, with many workers leaving their jobs to focus on work/life balance or their health. In short, employers that don't support employee wellness are losing workers.

To counteract what is being called the Great Resignation, savvy employers are stepping up to improve employee wellbeing by launching policies and programs that support career wellness. While employee wellbeing support was ostensibly a priority for employers in 2021, according to a study by Ragan Communications, only 67 percent of employers improved support, 21 percent didn't do anything about it, and 13 percent didn't know about wellbeing services. However, employee wellbeing has become a focus for HR since. Employees who have tasted the work/life balance and wellness programs, however, aren't giving up. Hence, the major trends heading into 2023 focus on career wellness through employee assistance programs like coaching.

But career wellness isn't just about employees' mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. It also involves the personal satisfaction of employees resulting from work/life balance and achievement of personal goals. Most organizations consider wellness as physical and mental health, and while the two dimensions are important in workplaces, career wellness is also crucial. Improving career wellness helps employees manage their career aspirations and improve their skill sets. That doesn’t mean you are training employees to leave; instead, you are improving job satisfaction, making them more likely to stay. When employees' skills are aligned with business goals, they can steer a company through difficult economic times and boost business growth.

One way to promote career wellness in your organization is by preventing skills stagnation. When your worker's skills are outdated, your business problems can't be resolved using old methodologies – they simply aren't effective. For example, employees who perform repetitive tasks like answering phones are likely to put their heads down, thinking they are doing well. Introducing and promoting career wellness helps them recognize the importance of continuous learning and developing fresh skills. With the new skills, workers will proactively think of ways to solve business problems and improve overall performance. So, how do you ensure your workforce doesn't have outdated skills...?

aligning workforce skills with business needs

As increasing automation and the economic impacts of the pandemic take hold, workers require new skills to excel in their roles. According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report, 50 percent of employees must reskill by 2025 to keep up with the changing job requirements. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why companies should develop strategies to align employee skills with future business requirements. Ultimately, learning to enhance job skills aids employee development, promotes career wellness, and strengthens an organization as a whole.

It's clear learning and development are valuable in improving employee experience, but spending more money on learning doesn't correlate to company growth. Companies should be intentional with their learning and development programs to ensure they align with business goals.

Keeping your business vision in mind when developing learning programs allows you to:

  • develop learning opportunities that impact your employees' job performance
  • gives you a strategic approach to investing in learning initiatives
  • evaluate the return on investment after the program

If you are looking to align your workforce skills to your business needs, here are the steps to follow:

1. determine your business goals 

Organizations should define business goals to set the foundations of workforce learning objectives. Clear business goals and key performance indicators help you gauge the return on investments for the learning. For example, if you want to improve engagement, it would make sense to train supervisors, while expanding the knowledge base requires learning on value propositions.

2. evaluate current performance and skills gap

When you understand the organization's long-term strategic goals, you can assess the skill gaps in your workforce. With new AI matching technologies, you can accurately assess your company’s skills requirements and employee’s competencies – both current and forecast. As well as evaluating your workforce’s overall strength and weakness, smart matching technology can reveal the skill gaps in employees that help them improve productivity. The evaluation aims to identify the team's overall strengths and weaknesses, performance gaps, and the role of individual employees in achieving business objectives.

3. set learning objectives

When you set learning goals and key results, you make employees accountable for their growth. The learning objective provides the metrics to be used in measuring progress. That means workers will remain on track to achieve their goals. Ensure you also communicate the learning expectations and set individual employee learning goals.

4. deliver the right learning

With various learning methods available, ensure you deliver the right learning to achieve the desired outcomes. Some employees prefer workshops, while others like one-to-one coaching. After the learning sessions, they assess the effectiveness by evaluating improvement in performance and establishing how the skills can be applied in the future.

why you should support employees' long-term employability

Organizational leaders and managers should support workers' long-term goals to enhance the employee experience through engagement. An engaged employee is a productive employee, and an important aspect of career wellness is ensuring employees can develop their skills and improve their employability. Developing an employee's long-term goals makes it easy for them to transition to other roles during restructuring or layoffs, while providing talent mobility tools like reskilling or upskilling prepares employees for promotions within the company.

According to a survey by Capterra, 49 percent of organizations are providing more learning and development opportunities to improve workers' skills. The figure is up from 41 percent in 2021. As the pandemic evolved in workplaces, reskilling strategies became short-term survival strategies for fueling and maintaining company growth. Many organizations discovered that upskilling during uncertain times boosts workers' performance and reliability.

So, to improve career wellness and retain workers, your company needs to invest in upskilling programs. As a long-term investment in augmenting knowledge and competencies that advance employee careers, offering upskilling opportunities has the following benefits for the company:

  • improves employee retention: if you don't offer workers learning and development opportunities to help them move up the career ladder, they are likely to leave to find those opportunities elsewhere. The fear of missing out makes them look for greener pastures. Job hopping isn't good for your company since recruitment can be expensive. When you invest in upskilling programs, you increase your employees' value in the organization. Besides, giving them the feeling that they are worth the investment makes them feel part of the company's future.
  • fills skill gaps in the company: organizations need specific skills to propel business growth with the changing markets and economic uncertainties. Unfortunately, many employees lack various hard and soft skills to facilitate their career mobility. Upskilling allows you to address the skills gaps in your company by learning the existing workforce.
  • prepares the company for contingencies: in case of restructures that lead to key employees leaving the organization, you need a replacement immediately to maintain business operations. Upskilling gives companies a fallback plan since they can rely on the existing workforce to take leadership roles.
  • fosters a learning culture: to remain a top employer, you should invest in human capital by creating a supportive learning environment. Companies that neglect learning experience high turnover rates and poor engagement. Implementing and fostering a learning culture gives your company a competitive advantage and attracts new talents.
  • improved career mobility: when your company is forced to downsize, your employees are better positioned to transition to other roles. Upskilling improves their employability, enhances your employer brand, and your outplacement efforts will be more successful.

When you support the future employability of workers by prioritizing career wellness, you improve your company brand. You will be perceived positively for supporting employee goals, which drives your long-term business success.

why you should create an inclusive workplace

The pandemic brought about a remote work culture that shook the dynamics of traditional workspaces. As a side effect of remote work, many professionals are quitting their jobs in the Great Resignation and are looking for jobs with less tangible benefits like flexibility. After working from home for nearly three years, employees are questioning whether they need to return to the office and are abandoning those organizations that force it.

As a result, human resource leaders globally are looking for ways to make workplaces inclusive and create mental health-friendly environments. Inclusivity allows you to support a diverse workforce, and the OC Tanner report shows that companies with a diverse and inclusive culture perform better. For instance, you can improve workplace flexibility to accommodate remote and hybrid work schedules. Additionally, many organizations support diversity, equity, and inclusion through strategies like investing in talent development and advancement. In short: the uncertainty of the pandemic has encouraged organizational leaders to embrace diverse opinions, which promotes career wellness.

The pandemic also laid bare global gender inequalities. In many countries, women were more likely to lose their jobs permanently and bore the brunt of the crisis compared to men. For instance, women, in particular, tended to take up the caregiving role during the pandemic and faced an additional challenge in keeping their skills up-to-date. Unfortunately, when companies reopened, this meant they were far behind in career growth. In 2023, more companies are embracing flexible schedules to address inequality, with a focus on inclusivity, allowing everyone to learn through reskilling and upskilling programs.

the benefits of integrating learning into the flow of work

Incorporating learning into the flow of work is an effective way to address career wellness. Today's work environments are intense, and organizations are dealing with unprecedented challenges, with employees leaving en masse for greener pastures. Companies are fighting to engage and retain workers, and one of the effective strategies is providing an opportunity for career advancement. As a lack of career growth reduces engagement, you are more likely to retain workers through offering career-building skills.

The best way to approach learning is by building it into the daily workflows of your workforce. Traditional learning programs are difficult to execute in today's fluid and fast-paced work environments as workers will likely put their learning programs on the back burner in favor of the day's tasks. Integrating skills learning into the workflows ensures employees are constantly learning new skills and achieving their career development goals – as well as hitting their KPIs. Some tips for incorporating learning into the flow of work include:

  • provide access to the right tools: ensure knowledge is readily available to improve the chances of employees accessing it. You provide diverse learning opportunities by putting the information they require at their fingertips.
  • give employees challenging tasks: people learn by trying out new activities daily. You should find ways to stretch your workers by assigning difficult tasks that give them a learning opportunity. It helps employees improve their skills and develop new ones.
  • experiment with different learning formats: traditional learning and development resources are available in written content and require a directed approach. If employees can find time to learn, they are less likely to use the time-intensive approaches. You can try learning formats like audio or podcasts that can be woven into their day. Infographics are also effective since they are quick to read and digest.
  • build a learning culture: developing a learning culture is crucial in integrating it into daily workflows. When learning is ingrained in employee habits, it will be the normal mode of operation. You can develop a learning culture by encouraging workers to ask questions and incentivizing knowledge sharing. Keeping open communication channels improves knowledge sharing. Workers can seek clarification on a policy or procedure, and you can also encourage employees to help others learn new skills through job shadowing.
  • leverage employee development tools: using career coaches can help build learning into the workflow. A half-hour coaching call can set an employee up to find on-the-job development opportunities and proactively develop their skills in the flow of work, which could save hours of conventional learning time. 

Organizations prioritizing career wellness in 2023 achieve various benefits like employee engagement and improved performance. With the Great Resignation adding to the impact of the pandemic, 2023 is also the right time to improve talent mobility and learning opportunities to aid retention.

Discover more exciting career wellness, coaching, and talent mobility resources on our website.